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Review: 'City of Bones' by Cassandra Clare

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars


When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .


Before I'd read City of Bones, I don't remember having read a bad review of either it or the other books in the Mortal Instruments series.  At the time of my writing this, it has over 150,000 ratings and an average rating of 4.15 out of 5.  Also, I would have to be blind and deaf not to have noticed the excitement sounding the release of City of Lost Souls recently.  What I'm saying is, clearly there are a lot of people out there that love this book.  I am, sadly, not one of those people.

Clarissa "Clary" Fray stumbles into the world of the Shadowhunters one night when she's out at a rather strange sounding night club with her best friend Simon.  (Let's leave the fact that there are two 15-year-olds spending an evening in a night club to one side, shall we?)  Clary isn't too bad as far as teenage protagonists go.  That is, aside from being remarkably slow on the uptake, rather selfish (particularly when it comes to her friendship with Simon) and naive.  On the plus side, Jace and her do share some passably witty exchanges and she can be quite brave.  I fell out with her at the end of the book but that's a rant for later!

After meeting Jace and his Shadowhunter companions, Clary eventually finds her way into the inner sanctum of their world, cryptically referred to as "the Institute". At first, the Institute is cool; it's a secret hide-out for all kinds of demon-hunting folk, has an enormous library and has plenty of gothic potential. It kind of seemed to me, however, that the only characters residing there were Jace, Clary, lurking historian/curator Hodge and brother-sister duo, Isabelle and Alec and came across as kind of...sad.

With all the bouncing around between Shadowhunter history (doled out in rather cumbersome and disruptive chunks by a mysterious chap that lurks around the Institute with his pet raven), spurts of vampire/werewolf/zombie-demon fighting by impetuous teenagers and angsty romance, the book felt very muddled indeed. There's almost too much going on and the plot just seemed to get lost amongst the red herrings and history lessons. I fully appreciate that trying to balance setting up your characters' backgrounds and world while maintaining a degree of action is a tough job. I can't help but feel, though, that plonking one of your characters in a library every now and then to effectively listen to a lecture is not the best way to go about it..

Anyway, so far, so average.  But then Clare threw a curve ball into the plot that made me want to throw my eReader at the wall.  Hard.  I realise that to those of you that haven't read the book, this will seem like a lot of raving nonsense.  But it isn't just the twist itself; it's the responses of the characters to the twist.  I expected revulsion but would have tolerated disquiet/anxiety/mild remorse.  To get what was tantamount to acceptance was just...infuriating. From a series where countless readers have praised the characterisation, I was extremely disappointed.  Well, actually, at the time of reading it I was extremely angry.  Retrospectively, I'm disappointed.

Also, as an annoying aside, I bought the first three in the series in a cute boxed set for my younger sister for Christmas.  She pretty much never reads (I know, weird...) but she has read and enjoyed a lot of The Morganville Vampire series so I figured I'd force help her to branch out.  I'm actually now contemplating taking the set away from her in case her opinion of books in general is damaged for good. Or at least splatting a disclaimer sticker on them that means she can't blame me if she throws City of Bones through her TV...

Overall:  I didn't hate this as much as it probably sounds as though I did.  It had some good points that were at the very least partially over-shadowed.  Maybe I've reached my YA urban fantasy series limit or maybe this series simply isn't just as good as I'd been led to expect; either way, I would struggle to recommend this to any but the most die-hard fans of YA.  And those with much higher levels of patience than me, obviously.  

Date finished:  5 May 2012
Format:  eBook
Source:  Borrowed from my library's eBook site
Genre:  Urban fantasy; YA
Published: by Margaret K. McElderry Books in March 2007

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